Mother Teresa, the revered Catholic nun who led the mass cremation of over 3,000 people in Calcutta in 1985, is among the first victims of the carpet moth pandemic, a new study finds.
The study published in the journal PLOS ONE finds that while maternal instinct is a powerful force, the impact of this instinct on the survival of the species is weak.
It’s the first time scientists have analyzed the impact maternal instinct has on the species’ survival, the study says.
“In a world where the maternal instinct and the mother’s energy are so intertwined, it makes a huge difference whether or not we can protect the species,” said study author Kaveh Shah, an assistant professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
“What happens is that, even if maternal instinct doesn’t drive the species, we’re able to have a stronger impact on it than other forces, like population density.”
Shah and his colleagues analyzed how maternal instinct influenced the survival and reproduction of several types of grasshoppers, including the carpet moths, which are native to China, Laos and Myanmar.
The carpet moth was found to be the most abundant grasshopper in the United States, accounting for about 60 percent of all grasshopping populations in the country, according to the US Department of Agriculture.
The researchers focused on a particular type of carpet moth, a male that can live for up to 10 years, Shah said.
“We wanted to see if this male could have a strong impact on the survivorship of the population,” he said.
The team looked at the genetic diversity of the male’s gene pool.
The scientists looked at his genes and compared them with genes from the female carpet moth, which has a similar genome, but the male has more genetic variation.
“When we compared them, the female was slightly less diversified than the male,” Shah said, “and this indicates that maternal instinct drives the female to protect the male and to breed the male.”
Shah said the scientists found that the female’s genetic diversity was very low.
“The male gene pool was slightly more diverse than the female,” he added.
“And when we looked at that, we found that we can only have a very small impact on this male.”
The study also found that maternal instincts could have an even bigger impact on a species that’s very susceptible to other threats, like humans.
The authors found that a grasshooper that has a high maternal instinct may not survive as long as a grasshawk that has weaker maternal instincts.
“These findings indicate that maternal tendencies can be used to guide selection and selection pressures to benefit the population at large,” Shah added.
The findings are similar to those from a previous study that found that in the case of a disease like coronavirus, maternal instincts can be the key to saving the species.
“Maternal instincts can have a profound effect on the population, and the effects of these instincts on the fitness of a population depend on the type of species, as well as on the nature of the mother,” Shah explained.
The paper was published in PLOS One.
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